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Linka Educates the Children

A release party for a new CD at New York City’s Birdland is not exactly an uncommon occurrence, but very few young men and women from the South Bronx attend such parties, and they are rarely the guests of honor. But thanks to the dedication of Czech-born jazz guitarist Rudy Linka, some bright young players from that unlikely locale will take the stage with Linka and special guest John Scofield on Nov. 5 to celebrate the release of the first CD from Music in the Center.

The Music in the Center program, based at the Monterey Community Center and serving housing projects in the South Bronx, was started by the New York City Housing Authority as a way to give young, under-privileged Bronx dwellers the equipment and opportunity to pursue a musical education. Linka had been teaching part-time at the program for eleven years during its somewhat tenuous existence when the director of the program abruptly quit to take another job. “I was just coming in one day a week, and he left last May,” Linka told “It was a big moment – I kind of felt like, ‘Well, I can just volunteer here.’ And that’s what I did for eight months. And after that I realized that you either do something right or you don’t do it at all, so I got together with some very good friends of mine and we founded this organization.”

Linka helps coordinate equipment donations from various instrument manufacturers and entices professional musicians to give lessons. “To get a musical education in this city is very, very expensive,” says Linka. “My daughter goes to the Manhattan School of Music, and I know exactly how much it costs. And it’s amazing that these kids are getting lessons from some of the best people in the city. They are not just teachers, they have record contracts and CDs and have been out traveling in the world. And somehow they feel like they can come in here and teach this for four hours, for very little money, and feel like they get something out of it.”

Birdland will host the young musicians and sell their CD on Nov. 5 from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. For more information about or to make a donation to Music in the Center, call (212) 873-3990.

Originally Published